iPhone 4 to Join Astronauts in Space Shuttle Mission

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Information collected from the iPhone experiments in space will be shared through the SpaceLab application on the App Store. (Photo: A Syed)
Information collected from the iPhone experiments in space will be shared through the SpaceLab application on the App Store. (Photo: A Syed)


  • First time iPhones will enter space; mission scheduled for July 2011
  • iPhone 4 “SpaceLab” app will run experiments related to altitude, sensor calibration, position and radiation
  • Modified version of app will be available to the general public

Two iPhone 4s are set to join the crew on board NASA’s final space shuttle mission tentatively scheduled for launch July 8th. It will be the first time an iPhone enters space.

Odyssey Space Research LLC created a “SpaceLab” application for the phones that will allow the astronauts to carry out four specific experiments while on board the U.S. National Laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS).

The first is a “limb tracker” feature that captures images of the earth and uses them to determine the iPhone’s altitude. The application also allows for sensor calibration to ensure measurements taken from the phone’s accelerometer and gyroscope are accurate. In addition, a “state acquisition” navigational experiment will determine the shuttle’s position by comparing information taken by the phone’s sensors to previously recorded images of the earth, while the “lifecycle flight instrumentation” will test the effects of radiation on the iPhone by measuring changes to certain areas of the device’s memory.

The experiments will include step-by-step instructions for the crew members, making supplementary written manuals unnecessary.

No Phoning Home

While in space, some features typically included on the iPhone will be disabled. Astronauts will not be able to make phone calls using the phones.

Apple, the creator of the iPhone, is making the SpaceLab application available for the public through its App Store for $0.99. However, certain measurements that the space-bound phones will be able to take will be simulated on the terrestrial iPhones because of earth’s gravitational effect on the phones.

After the conclusion of the experiments, the iPhones will be returned to earth where information gathered during the mission will be analyzed and shared through the SpaceLab application on the App Store.

The modified iPhones will possibly return to space next fall aboard a Russian Soyuz vehicle.

Key Features – iPhone 4

  • FaceTime: an application allowing iPhone4 users to video-call other iPhone4 users (and those using the new iPod touch through Wi-Fi)
  • Improved screen resolution over previous versions of the phone
  • 5-megapixel camera with LED flash
  • HD video-recording and editing capabilities
  • Improved multi-tasking abilities for applications

By Peter Kourkouvis for
Peter Kourkouvis is a freelance writer based in Paris who covers technology and business news.

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